In sixteenth-century Cracow, there lived a Jew named R’ Isserl. He was a scholar, philanthropist, and a well-respected community leader, who made a fine living manufacturing and selling fine silk. Many member of the Polish nobility were his customers.
Late one Friday morning, a nobleman entered Isserl’s store to make a substantial purchase. He spent a great deal of time picking out various amounts of expensive materials. By the time he had chosen his fabric it was already noon, and the fabric still had to be measured and cut.
Isserl explained to his customer that he did not operate his store past noon on Friday, because he had to prepare for Shabbos. He promised to open his store early on Sunday morning so that they could complete the purchase.
The nobleman became incensed. He was not used to waiting for anything and he surely did not want to wait until Sunday to get his order. He insisted that the order be completed immediately. He reasoned that it would only take another fifteen minutes and Isserl would be netting a tremendous profit on the deal. The nobleman threatened that if he did not get his order immediately he would take his business elsewhere.
Isserl humbly apologized again and insisted that he was not going to change his mind. “In all my years of business I have never deviated from my practice of not working after noon on Friday. I cannot compromise on that now.”
The nobleman stormed out in a huff. The deal was off.
Sometime later Isserl and his wife were granted a son, whom they named Moshe. It was revealed to Isserl that Moshe would become a great Torah leader in the merit of the sacrifice he made for the honor of Shabbos. Indeed, that son became the legendary Rema , the foremost Ashkenazic halachic authority during the past five hundred years.
“G-d spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I am holy, Hashem, your G-d. Every man shall revere his mother and his father and you shall safeguard My Shabbos – I am Hashem, your G-d.” (19:1-3)
The Torah juxtaposes the commandments that one reveres his parents and Shabbos observance. Rashi explains that it is to teach us that although one is obligated to honor and respect his parents, that obligation does not supersede one’s obligation to observe Shabbos. If one’s parents instruct him to violate Shabbos he may not obey.
The Chofetz Chaim offers an alternative, extraordinary explanation:
Shabbos is referred to as a bride, and the Jewish people as its groom. If a groom adequately honors and cares for his bride then his father-in-law will take care of him and provide for his needs. Seeing that his daughter is well cared for fills him with joy and he will want to shower his son-in-law and daughter with gifts.
So too, when we honor and glorify Shabbos – the daughter of G-d as it were – He showers us with blessing, as the verse says, “And G-d blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it.” The pasuk juxtaposes fearing one’s parents with the mitzvah of Shabbos to symbolize the idea that in a sense G-d is the “father of the Shabbos Queen” and if we care for His daughter He will provide for us.
The Gemara (Shabbos 118a) states, “Anyone who delights in the Shabbos is given an inheritance without boundaries… Anyone who delights in the Shabbos is granted all the requests of his heart.” All of the delicacies and customary foods that we eat on Shabbos are not extraneous, but are vital components of our Shabbos observance.
What is the meaning behind the concept of Oneg Shabbos (enjoying and “taking delight” in the Shabbos)? If Shabbos is such a holy day, why don’t we spend the day in meditation and prayer, as we do on Yom Kippur? Isn’t indulgence in food and physical enjoyment antithetical to spirituality and holiness?
Rav Shimshon Pincus zt’l explains that there is a fundamental difference between the holiness of Shabbos and the holiness of Yom Kippur. In Parshas Achrei Mos the Torah details the lengthy service that the Kohen Gadol performed throughout Yom Kippur. At the conclusion of its narrative the Torah states, “For on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, from all of your sins, before G-d you shall be purified.” Yom Kippur is a gift that G-d granted us as a means to purify our tainted souls so that we can achieve atonement. In order to express our desire to reconnect with G-d and right the wrongs we have committed, we temporarily forfeit our earthly needs to symbolize our true desire.
Shabbos on the other hand, is not our day. Shabbos is G-d’s day!
About the Author: Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead in Monsey NY. He is also Guidance Counselor/Rebbe in ASHAR and Yeshiva Bais Hachinuch. His website is www.stamtorah.info. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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